MLAs Col­umn

Moose Jaw - - News - War­ren Michel­son

On Tues­day, April 10, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Donna Harpauer pre­sented the 2018-19 Pro­vin­cial Bud­get in the Saskatchewan Legislative Assem­bly. The document details how our gov­ern­ment’s three-year plan to re­turn to a bal­anced bud­get is on track with ma­jor in­vest­ments in health care, ed­u­ca­tion, so­cial ser­vices and in­fra­struc­ture, and a steadily im­prov­ing out­look over the next four years. The dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions in the pre­vi­ous bud­get were made to help get our prov­ince off our de­pen­dency on non-re­new­able re­source rev­enues – and that plan is work­ing. Non-re­new­able re­source rev­enues make up only 10% of this year’s bud­get, as op­posed to 32% in 2008-09. A record $5.77 bil­lion will im­prove health care for all Saskatchewan peo­ple this year. That in­cludes $3.5 bil­lion for Saskatchewan Health Au­thor­ity op­er­at­ing fund­ing, up nearly $72 mil­lion from to­tal fund­ing pro­vided to the 12 for­mer re­gional au­thori- ties in last year’s bud­get. More than $520,000 is be­ing in­vested in a new pro­gram to en­sure that ba­bies born in Saskatchewan hos­pi­tals are screened for hear­ing loss. $2.8 mil­lion is be­ing pro­vided to ful­fill the gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to pro­vide in­di­vid­u­al­ized fund­ing for chil­dren with Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der. Initial fund­ing of $4,000 per child un­der the age of six will be pro­vided this year. The Saskatchewan Party Gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to in­crease ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing by $30 mil­lion was de­liv­ered in this bud­get. In­creased fund­ing will help Saskatchewan school di­vi­sions con­tinue sup­port­ing stu­dents by hir­ing up to 400 teach­ers and other ed­u­ca­tional sup­port staff. Saskatchewan’s 27 school di­vi­sions will re­ceive $1.87 bil­lion in school op­er­at­ing fund­ing for the 2018-19 school year, up 1.6 per cent com­pared to last year. This bud­get also pro­vides nearly $77 mil­lion in child care fund­ing. To­gether with fed­eral funds, this will sup­port more than 16,000 li­censed child care spa­ces and al­low for the ad­di­tion of 2,500 li­censed child care spa­ces by 2020. More than $10 mil­lion in this year’s bud­get is tar­geted to those who pro­vide direct daily care to adults with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties or men­tal health chal­lenges, as well as for direct sup­ports to fam­i­lies and daily care for chil­dren in need of pro­tec­tion. This in­cludes fund­ing in­creases for foster fam­i­lies, com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions that de­liver day pro­grams and res­i­den­tial ser­vices to peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties, and other CBOs that pro­vide fam­ily-fo­cused ser­vices. The bud­get in­cludes many other im­por­tant in­vest­ments in post-se­condary ed­u­ca­tion, in high­ways and in­fra­struc­ture, in sup­port for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, in in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy, in the agriculture and re­source sec­tors and in trade and ex­port de­vel­op­ment. Proudly, we are able to make these im­por­tant in­vest­ments with no in­creases to tax rates. All pro­vin­cial tax rates, in­clud­ing pro­vin­cial sales tax, in­come tax and prop­erty tax will re­main the same. Al­though there is an on­go­ing threat from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, this bud­get con­tains no car­bon tax. A deficit of $365 mil­lion is pro­jected for 2018-19. A re­turn to bal­ance is ex­pected in 2019-20 with a mod­est pro­jected sur­plus of $6 mil­lion. Higher sur­pluses of $108 mil­lion and $212 mil­lion re­spec­tively are fore­cast for 2020-21 and 2021-22. Details can be found on­line at­get. Our three-year plan for a bal­anced bud­get is on track by con­trol­ling gov­ern­ment spend­ing with no tax rate in­creases, de­liv­er­ing high qual­ity ser­vices for Saskatchewan peo­ple and through mea­sures to keep our econ­omy strong. This sup­ports our vi­sion of en­sur­ing that Saskatchewan is the best place in Canada—to live, work, start a busi­ness, to get an ed­u­ca­tion and raise a fam­ily.

War­ren Michel­son, MLA

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